Skip to content


Representative pixel resolutions

Representative pixel resolutions

There’s a new TV format looming on the horizon. It’s called 4K TV. You may have seen a commercial for a Sony 4K TV last night, as I did while in the middle of composing this post.

4K, you say. What the heck is that?

Well, in this case it refers to video resolution. More precisely, it refers to the vertical resolution — not the horizontal resolutions that are more commonly used, such as 1080p (1920 pixels x 1080 pixels) for high-definition video. 1080p tells us that there are 1,080 lines of resolution stacked one atop the other like pancakes. The “p” means that the lines are displayed “progressively” from top to bottom, unlike on old-school CRT screens, which display every other line.

In contrast, the 4K resolutions are approximately 4,000 lines of vertical resolution stacked side-by-side like books on a shelf. This is four times the resolution of current high-definition video.

Digital television and digital cinematography use several 4K resolutions including:

As time moves on you will start to see 4K become more and more prevalent. That’s all well and good, but why? Isn’t HD clear enough now?

TV screens are expanding. Large projection use, such as home theaters, concerts and sporting events, are becoming more commonplace. And while the HD resolution still looks good at these sizes, 4K resolution will look even better.

Now, it may take a while for broadcast, cable and satellite companies to deliver 4K content. They just spent huge amounts of money delivering digital HDTV, so they’re probably not looking to do that again anytime soon. What we need here are new compression algorithms to squeeze all of that data through existing networks.

With that said, we are starting to see 4K emerge in a couple of ways.

Blu-ray discs have the capacity to use 4K content, but would need more layers to fit an entire movie on one disc. If current players are not able to play back native 4K content we would most likely see another wave of DVD player upgrades.

Also, Sony (remember that commercial I talked about?) will be delivering 4K content through an external media server that can be viewed on their UHD TVs.

RED has also announced the availability of a 4K media player — the REDRAY.

What does this all mean to you and your current HD equipment? Not much, since any 4K content would most likely be delivered as an addition to current HD programming, much like 3DTV is now.

By the way, did I mention 8K?

Sign up to receive our industry trends newsletter: